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Remember the articles we wrote on COVID-19 vaccine and the FAQs for the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme Plan? If you haven’t read them already, we encourage you to give it a quick glance! Because by the time of writing this article, a significant development of COVID-19 vaccination in Malaysia is reported: the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in Malaysia on 21st of February 2021!
Yes, we know. After a long and arduous fight against the pandemic, finally we are catching a glimpse of hope. The registration of COVID-19 vaccine will be conducted via five channels:
MySejahtera app - Remember to update your app so that you can register yourself for vaccination. If you don't know how, read more here.
Call the hotline 1800-888-828
Manual registration at government hospitals, health clinics and private hospitals
Door-to-door registration for elderly population in rural area
As we all know, Malaysia is not the first country that started COVID-19 vaccination. At the time of writing, Israel has already vaccinated 71.59% of its population; the United Arab Emirates has vaccinated 49.56%; United States and United Kingdom vaccinated 21.42% and 14.63%, respectively. The world, however, has collectively vaccinated only 2.82% of the population so far. (Source: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations)
The National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme has three phases, with the government targeting 80 per cent of the country's population or 26.5 million individuals to receive the vaccine free of charge.
The first phase, from March to April, is for the 500,000 frontliners who are directly involved in the fight against COVID-19, while the second phase, from April to August, for the high-risk group, comprising senior citizens aged 60 and above and the vulnerable group with morbidity problems, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as persons with disabilities (PwD). The third phase is from May to February next year and it is for those aged 18 and above.
Even though the government planned to source the COVID-19 vaccine from different manufacturers, currently only Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been registered by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), thus giving conditional approval for the use of the vaccine in the country. We will give more emphasis to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in this article.
Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19. Experts also think that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
Take the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as an example: Among 20 million people worldwide already vaccinated so far with the vaccine, the overall adverse event rate reported was approximately 0.02 percent .That is much safer than the effects of actually getting COVID-19!
Sadly, not everyone is perfectly confident with the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccine. Misinformation couples with the lightning speed of information spread on the Internet further complicate the effort of vaccinating Malaysians. Since public confidence is crucial for the success of Malaysia’s COVID-19 immunisation programme, we hope this article can help enlighten the facts about COVID-19 vaccination and encourage eligible individuals to receive the vaccine.
Side effects from a vaccine are called an “adverse event following immunisation” or AEFI. In many cases, the side effects are expected and predictable; they are also mild and short-term:
Pain and swelling on the arm where you got the shot
We want to emphasize that if you experience these signs, it means that the vaccine is working– your body is building the protection against COVID-19. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.
To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:
Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth over the area.
Use or exercise your arm.
To reduce discomfort from fever:
Drink plenty of fluids.
Talk to your doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamines, or paracetamol (Panadol)
Some media outlets sensationalize the side effects of COVID-19 vaccine with scary titles, such as those that emphasize the number of deaths during its clinical trials. It is true that Norway has reported 30 deaths among elderly people with serious underlying health conditions following administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as well as a few other recipients of the various jabs have had a serious, but treatable, allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis.
However, before we let ourselves get discouraged from receiving the vaccine, we need to practise critical thinking by putting these information into perspectives: the 30 deaths were reported among some 40,000 people given the vaccine. Those who died were all about the age of 75 years old and are terminally ill patients anticipated to have only weeks or months to live. In fact, those close to the time of vaccination are not necessarily because of the shot: an average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.
What we are trying to say is that, although it is sad that we have lost 29 lives in the vaccination process, but for the reasons we have pointed out, the deaths may not be caused by the vaccine. Even if it was, the death rate is low and thus worth taking a shot (pun intended). For the same population, the risk of dying from COVID-19 will be higher compared to dying from getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
To further reassure your confidence in the vaccine, millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered in the US, UK and some other countries with very low death rates reported. For example, in the US, the CDC and FDA received 1,170 reports of death among individuals in the U.S. who received a COVID-19 vaccine — 0.003% of vaccinated people — between Dec. 14, 2020, and Feb. 7, 2021.
If you are interested in the details of death rates associated with COVID-19 vaccine, we recommend that you read this article. Do not let yourself get carried away by sensational news headlines.
Maybe it wasn’t the death rates that concern you, but the fact that we can have a vaccine so fast — in less than a year, the fastest any vaccine has ever been developed.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a vaccine can take more than 10 years to fully develop and costs up to $500 million. This is because it is a process with a high failure rate — often 93% of vaccine candidates failed at the beginning of the process. Most of the years spent were also due to shortage in funding and paperworks.
However, in the case of COVID-19 vaccine, the speedy development is made possible for the following reasons:
Years of advance research in related coronaviruses such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) have laid the foundation for the development of COVID-19 vaccine.
A lot of funding was poured into the development by public funders and private philanthropists. Vaccine development is a costly business. While money can’t buy everything, money certainly can buy A LOT, including a vaccine under a year.
Scientists from all around the world collaborate together by sharing their data with each other. For example, roughly 10 days after the first reported pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, the researchers in China quickly uncovered the viral sequence of SARS-CoV-2 and made it available to scientists worldwide, which helped the vaccine development.
None of the necessary tests required to evaluate the COVID-19 vaccine were skipped but rather compressed within a shorter timeframe.
Sources: BioNTech/Pfizer; Nature analysis
Covid-19 vaccine was developed quickly, but nothing about it was done overnight. It is made possible because there are many scientists who worked relentlessly years before the virus emerged. If there’s anything great about this pandemic, it is that it really shows us the sky's the limit when humanity comes together to support science.
There are various ingredients in COVID-19 vaccine. For instance, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine mainly contains four components:
mRNA of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19: acts as a recipe that “teaches” your immune system to produce antibodies that can fight against COVID-19 when you are infected. It will NOT cause COVID-19.
Lipid molecules: protect the mRNA from degradation and help it to be taken up by your body’s immune cells.
Salts: help to maintain the pH level of vaccines to be as close as to your body’s.
Sucrose molecules: A cryoprotectant that prevents the lipid molecules from clumping together when the vaccine is stored at low temperature.
Microchips are NOT one of the ingredients, and injecting the vaccine WILL NOT change your DNA! So stop worrying, folks. COVID-19 vaccine really looks like the standard vaccines you have received in the past.
The UK government has also confirmed that the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine does not contain components of animal origin. According to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, the Special Muzakarah (discussion) of National Council for the Islamic Religious Affairs (MKI) had decided that the use of the COVID-19 vaccine is permissible (harus). The use of vaccines to protect mankind from dangerous diseases is unusual in Islam but has been in practice since 1988. Besides Malaysia, other world fatwa institutions have also decreed the need for vaccine use, among them are the leading institutions of al-Azhar al-Sharif; Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates Government; and Majma ‘Fuqaha’ al-Shari’ah United States. (Source: National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme, page 8)
For more information about the ingredients in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, read here.
If you have any questions related to COVID-19 vaccination in Malaysia, you can fill in an online form here, staffs from JKJAV will answer your doubts!
If you are not convinced yet, here are three benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine:
It will help keep you from getting COVID-19, and keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. These are not arbitrary claims — all COVID-19 vaccines that are in development are being carefully evaluated in clinical trials and will be authorized or approved only if they show significant results.
It is a safer way to help build protection. Remember that not so distant in the past some world leaders actually advocated that people get infected by COVID-19 naturally to build natural herd immunity? That sounds so ridiculous at this point, isn’t it? After all the complications of COVID-19 we have heard, this is definitely not a good idea. Getting vaccinated lets you acquire immunity in a safer manner, period.
Want the global pandemic to stop? We all do. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed.
We count on ourselves and each other to stop the pandemic, and the COVID-19 vaccine is an indispensable part of the effort. Remember to register for COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes!
Note: COVID-19 vaccine such as Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses. Remember to get your second shot as per your appointment with the doctor.
If you have any enquiries related to COVID-19, you can consult our COVID-19 Task Force, which consists of professional doctors and healthcare professionals, for FREE!
Disclaimer: COVID-19 is a novel disease. The information and scientific evidence of its development and vaccines are changing as we speak. Some content of this article may be outdated in the future. We encourage you to always speak with a healthcare professional you trust for the latest updates on COVID-19 and its vaccines.
Ball P. The lightning-fast quest for COVID vaccines — and what it means for other diseases. Nature. 2020;589(7840):16-18. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-03626-1
CDC. COVID-19 Vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published February 11, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html
COVID-19 vaccine: How was it developed so fast? Published November 13, 2021. Accessed February 24, 2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-did-we-develop-a-covid-19-vaccine-so-quickly
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